Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:17 pm 
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NYFF, 2012. The Main Slate: an overview.

(As a quick summary of my Filmleaf Festival Coverage, which includes a full review of each, here again is a list of the Main Slate films of the 50th New York Film Festival, with my brief critical comments in bold after each FSLC blurb. My top choices are highlighted in red.)

For the source of this information click on the logo above or HERE. The blurbs are from the FSLC. Please note there were many wonderful sidebar items not covered here. See the Filmlinc NYFF website.

There are 33 Main Slate films, several more than some years. If you followed the 2012 Cannes Festival you'll recognize AMOUR, BEYOND THE HILLS, HOLY MOTORS, LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE, NO, and YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET. I'd forgotten, but also at Cannes was Lafosse's OUR CHILDREN, and so was HERE AND THERE and Raul Ruiz's THE NIGHT ACROSS THE STREET. So that makes nine from Cannes, plus two from Venice and three from Locarno; there are some from Toronto. LIFE OF PI and FLIGHT are opening and closing films that will not reward the film festival goer with anything not later to be in a local theater. This will be true of others, including AMOUR and HOLY MOTORS (both debuting theatrically at Film Forum in NYC). LIFE OF PI AND FLIGHT will have wide distribution. Films that have a US release coming outnumber those without release almost two to one.

Stills show some of the ladies.

I have now added the 1-10 ratings I gave for the website

Amour (Michael Haneke, Austria/France/Germany)
["Love."] Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winner of Cannes 2012 is a merciless and compassionate masterpiece about an elderly couple dealing with the ravages of old age. A Sony Pictures Classics release. [Cannes.] [Limited US release Dec. 19, 2012.] This was the most important, moving, and artistically elegant film of the festival. Rating: 10/10

Araf—Somewhere In Between (Yeşim Ustaoğlu, Turkey/France/Germany)
Director Yesim Ustaoglu depicts with empathy and uncompromising honesty the fate of a teenaged girl when she becomes sexually obsessed with a long-distance trucker and the promise of freedom that he embodies. [Venice.] A largely forgettable effort, too much like similar films, despite some nice visuals. Rating: 5/10


Barbara (Christian Petzold, Germany)
Christian Petzold’s perfectly calibrated Cold War thriller features the incomparable Nina Hoss as a physician planning to defect while exiled to a small town in East Germany. An Adopt Films release. [Berlinale.] A superbly made film, with Nina Hoss fine as usual, one of the festival's best. [US release Dec. 21, 2012, NYC/] Rating; 9.5/10

Beyond the Hills/După dealuri (Cristian Mungiu, Romania)
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days director Cristian Mungiu returns with a harrowing, visually stunning drama set in a remote Romanian monastery. Winner, Best Actress and Best Screenplay, 2012 Cannes Film Festival. A Sundance Selects release. [Cannes.] Still a bit of a slog, but not as much as the usual new Romanian films, and a powerful and involving film that's in its way also finely crafted. Rating: 9.5/10

Bwakaw (Jun Robles Lana, The Philippines)
A moving and funny surprise from the Philippines starring the great Eddie Garcia—and a truly unforgettable dog—in the story of an elderly loner going where he’s never dared venture before. Touching, fresh, memorable. A disappointing look to the visuals. Rating: 8/10


Camille Rewinds/Camille Redouble (Noémie Lvovsky, France)
Noemie Lvovsky directs and stars in an ebullient comedy of remarriage that gives Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married a sophisticated, personal, and decidedly French twist. [French release September 12, 2012: Allociné ratings, press=4.1, viewers=3.6] I enjoyed this free-flowing and relaxed lark; maybe not top grade festival material though. Rating: 7.5/10

Caesar Must Die/Cesare deve morire (Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani, Italy)
Convicted felons stage a production of Julius Caesar in this surprising new triumph for the Taviani Brothers, winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. An Adopt Films release. [Berlinale.] Very involving, but marred by fudging of the facts, 'documentary' scenes obviously rehearsed. Rating: 7/10

The Dead Man and Being Happy/El muerto y ser feliz (Javier Rebollo, Spain/Argentina)
A dying hitman and a mysterious femme fatale set off on an oddball journey through Argentina’s interior in this playful and unexpectedly moving reverie on love, death and the open road. [San Sebastián Festival. Made up as he went along and it shows. Interesting sound design, maybe too interesting. Rating: 5/10

Fill the Void/Lemale et ha'chalal (Rama Burshtein, Israel)
With her first dramatic feature, writer-director Rama Burshtein has made a compelling, disconcerting view of Israel's orthodox Hassidic community from the inside. Well made, but seems like an advertisement for ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and I'm not buying. Rating: 6/10

First Cousin Once Removed (Alan Berliner, USA)
Alan Berliner creates a compelling, heartfelt chronicle of poet and translator Edwin Honig’s loss of memory, language and his past due to the onslaught of Alzheimer’s. An HBO Documentary Films release. World Premiere. Relentless but a good record, and not your average Alzheimer's patient, to put it mildly. This guy is smart. Rating: 7/10

Flight (Robert Zemeckis, USA)
Denzel Washington and Robert Zemeckis team on this tense dramatic thriller about an airline pilot who pulls off a miraculous crash landing...while flying under the influence. A Paramount Pictures release. Closing Night. World Premiere. Very mainstream, a fest ticket-seller. Involving though. And people say Denzel just plays himself all the time. Not fair at all. This is the complex protagonist that the over-hyped ARGO doesn't give us. Rating: 7.5/10

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, USA)
Lightning-in-a-bottle, Noah Baumbach’s love poem to his star and screenwriter Greta Gerwig recalls Godard’s early celebrations of Anna Karina, but, as a New York movie, it’s beautiful in a brand new way. [Debuted at Toronto.] Yeah, this is high class Mumblecore alright and I liked it but the reaction was very mixed and I am tending to forget it. Rating: 7/10

The Gatekeepers/Shomerei Ha’saf (Dror Moreh, Israel/France/Germany/Belgium)
Six former heads of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, discuss their nation’s past, present and future, in what will surely be one of the most hotly discussed films of the year. A Sony Pictures Classics release. [Documentary. Debuted at Jerusalem Festival.] Another good, searching Israeli doc like The Law in These Parts (SFIFF), great if you're into talking heads and archival footage. Rating: 6.5/10


Ginger and Rosa (Sally Potter, UK)
Sally Potter’s riveting coming-of-age story, set in London in 1962, centers on two teenage best friends (played by the revelatory Elle Fanning and talented newcomer Alice Englert) who are driven apart by a scandalous betrayal. [Will debut at Toronto. UK release October 19, 2012.] Very Seventies self-indulgent lady filmmaking. One-dimensional; no context. Rating: 5/10

Here and There/Aquí y Allá (Antonio Méndez Esparza, Spain/US/Mexico)
After years in the U.S., Pedro returns home to his family in Mexico, but the lure of the north remains as strong as ever. A most impressive feature debut by Antonio Mendez Esparza. [Cannes.] Dull and flat. All that was glorious about neo-realism has been lost. Rating: 4/10

Holy Motors (Léos Carax, France)
Leos Carax’s unclassifiable, breathtaking, expansive movie—his first in 13 years—stars the great Denis Lavant as a man named Oscar who inhabits 11 different identities over a single day in Paris. An Indomina Releasing release. [French release July 4, Allociné ratings press=4.3, viewers=2.9; US release Oct 12, Metacritic rating=84.] [Cannes.] A wild affirmation of how bold movies can be. No.. 2 of the fest after Amour. Rating: 10/10

Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Michell, USA/UK)
Bill Murray caps his career with a wily turn as FDR in this captivating comedy-drama about the President’s relationship with his cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney). A Focus Features release. [Debut at Toronto. US theatrical release from December 7, 2012; UK, FEb. 1, 2012.] Harmless but annoying tripe, great stuff for the cottonhead arthouse oldie aud, another fest ficket-seller. Rating: 5/10

Kinshasa Kids (Marc-Henri Wajnberg, Belgium/France)
Perhaps the most ebullient “musical” you’ll see this year, Marc-Henri Wajnberg’s singular documentary/fiction hybrid follows a group of street children in the Congolese capital. [Venice Days series.] Well, this is a good topic, and a less sloppy filmmaker might have made something great out of it. Rating: 5.5/10


The Last Time I Saw Macao/A Última Vez Que Vi Macau (João Pedro Rodrigues)
This stunning amalgam of film noir and Chris Marker cine-essay poetically explores the psychic pull of the titular former Portuguese colony. [A cross between documentary and fiction. Locarno Festival.] A laudable but embarassing effort to jazz up a conventional travelogue. Rating: 4/10

Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel, USA)
NYFF alumni Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Sweetgrass) and Véréna Paravel (Foreign Parts) team for another singular anthropological excavation, this time set inside the commercial fishing industry. [Locarno.] Very bold abstract doc, more a harsh visual poem than instruction about anything. But the in-your-face picture of large-scale US fishing is there. Rating: 8/10

Life of Pi (Ang Lee, USA)
Ang Lee's superb 3D adaptation of the great [Yann Martel 2001] bestseller resembles no other film. A 20th Century Fox release. Opening Night. World Premiere. Another fest ticket-seller, but a visual delight and a technical marvel. The ugly stuff of the novel's sea ordeal drops out, but this remains a nice memory. [US release Nov. 21, 2012.] Rating: 9/10


Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami, Japan/Iran/France)
Master Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostmi ventures to Japan for this mysterious beautiful romantic drama about the brief encounter between an elderly professor and a young student. A Sundance Selects release. [Cannes.] A real puzzler. Fascinating, and finely crafted. But then you think, so what? Rating: 7/10

Lines of Wellington/Linhas de Wellington (Valeria Sarmiento, France/Portugal)
Passionate romance, brutal treachery, and selfless nobility are set against the background of Napoleon’s 1810 invasion of Portugal in Valeria Sarmiento’s intimate epic. [Debuts at Toronto.] A bumbling and amorphous continuation of husband Raul Ruiz's work, valuable bit of film history I guess, but not a success. Rating: 5/10

Memories Look at Me/Ji Yi Wang Zhe Wo (Song Fang, China)
Song Fang’s remarkable first feature, in which she travels from Beijing to Nanjing for a visit with her family, perfectly captures the rhythms of brief sojourns home. [Locarno.] A big bore. Again neo-realism is turning over in its grave. Reduced fundamental issues of parenting and aging to chit-chat. Rating: 4/10

Night Across the Street/La Noche de enfrente (Raul Ruiz, Chile/France)
A final masterpiece from one of the cinema’s most magical artists, this chronicle of the final months of one Don Celso allows the late Raul Ruiz the chance to explore the thin line between fact and fiction, the living and the dead. A Cinema Guild release. [Cannes.] Fascinating, complex, stuff you may be puzzled by but will enjoy talking about. Rating: 8.5/10

No (Pablo Larrain, Chile/USA)
Gael Garcia Bernal stars as a Chilean adman trying to organize a campaign to unseat Pinochet in Pablo Larrain’s smart, engrossing political thriller. A Sony Pictures Classics release. [Cannes.] Different direction for Larrain, and a bit shapeless, nonetheless darkly hilarious and significant; one of the best of the fest, maybe no. 3. [US release: Feb. 15, 2013.] Rating: 9.5/10

Not Fade Away (David Chase, USA)
The debut feature from The Sopranos creator David Chase is a wise, tender and richly atmospheric portrait of a group of friends trying to start a rock band in 1960s suburban New Jersey. A Paramount Vantage release. Centerpiece. World premiere. We all like rock and roll, but does anything make this special? Rating: 5.5/10

Our Children/À perdre la raison (Joachim Lafosse, Belgium)
Belgian director Joachim LaFosse turns a lurid European news story about a mad housewife into a classical tragedy. Émilie Dequenne more than fulfills the promise of her award-winning performance in [the Dardennes'] Rosetta. [Cannes.] Lafosse is good at messed-up, inappropriate family situations. Not very tightly edited. Rating: 5.5/10


The Paperboy (Lee Daniels USA)
Nicole Kidman gives one of her best performances in this steamy southern gothic directed by Lee Daniels (Precious) and co-starring Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey. A Millennium Entertainment release. Parta of a Gala Tribute to Nicole. Lurid fun, if you like Zac in skivvies and Nicole with her legs spread. I do. Rating: 6/10

Passion (Brian de Palma, France/Germany)
Brian De Palma brings great panache and a diabolical mastery of surprise to a classic tale of female competition and revenge. Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams are super-cool and oh so mean. Just glossy eye-candy, and the French original was no masterpiece and this does not improve upon it but just sexes it up. Rating: 5/10

Something in the Air/Après Mai (Olivier Assayas, France)
Too young to have been on the May ’68 barricades, a group of young people explore their options for continuing the political struggle in Olivier Assayas’ incisive portrait of a generation. A Sundance Selects release. [Venice. November release in France.] Yeah, we all love the Seventies too, but this just meanders -- though the mise-en-scène is terrific. [French release Nov. 14, 2012.] Rating: 5.5/10

Tabu (Miguel Gomes, Portugal)
An exquisite, absurdist entry in the canon of surrealist cinema, Tabu is movie-as-dream—an evocation of irrational desires, extravagant coincidences, and cheesy nostalgia grounded in serious feeling and beliefs. An Adopt Films release. [Berlinale.] [US release Dec. 26, 2012.] Really original second half, boring first. Rating: 6/10


You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet/Vous n'avez encore rien vu (Alain Resnais, France)
The latest from 90-year-old Alain Resnais is a wry, wistful and always surprising valentine to actors and the art of performance starring a who’s-who of French acting royalty. [French release date September 26, 2012: Allociné ratings, press=4.0, viewers=2.6] Probably a great final statement, as Mike D'Angelo said, but I liked the idea of it better than actually watching it. Rating: 7.5/10

French posters for Tabu, Beyond the Hills, Our Children, Something in the Air, and Holy Morors

NOTE: The Film Society of Lincoln Center's offerings keep growing with the aid of the new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center across the street from the Walter Reade Theater, which houses two cinemas, an ampitheater and a café. Reviewing each Main Slate film in detail kept me from thoroughly covering the many sidebar items, though I did see and was impressed by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s exhaustive and lovingly assembled documentary, Celluloid Man, which profiles P.K. Nair, the founder and longtime guiding spirit of the National Film Archive of India, who has been compared to the legendary Henri Langlois of the Paris Cinéthèque. Other sidebar films of the NYFF shown to the press and recommended to me included some strong new documentaries. Philippe Béziat's Becoming Traviata follows the production of the opera in Aix-en-Provence. Francesco Patierno’s The War of the Volcanoes, is about rival film productions on the island of Stronboli by Rossellini with Ingrid Bergman and his ex-lover Anna Magnani. i]Liv and Ingmar[/i] (Dheeraj Akolkar) follows another turbulent film relationship. Curfew, in Program 2 of the Shorts program, is about babysitting. There was also a Masterworks series that included Laurence of Arabia and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Included (which I did see) was Charlie Is My Darling, a 65-min. documentary painstakingly reedited by Mick Gochanour and Robin Klein (who did The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus ) of footage shot in 1965 of the Rolling Stones touring Ireland. It shows the Stones just beginning to be super-famous and includes what is said to be the first performance before an audience of "Satisfaction." Interesting discussion of this film by Richard Brody in his New Yorker movie blog. As in earlier years there was also the NYFF sidebar series, Views from the Avant-Garde. An extensive program was shown on the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center's state of the art digital screen, viewable free of charge.

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